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In most cases there is no better tool than a band saw to cut precise curves in wood, although a quality saw does more than just cut curves. It also cuts tenons and smaller rabbets; can be used for resawing thin strips of wood from larger pieces, and for ripping small pieces of stock.
But with the variety of types, sizes and options available, how do you know which one’s the right one for you? That’s what we’re here to tell you.
Band Saw Types
There are two principal band saw types : floor standing cabinet models, and shorter models for mounting (either on bench tops or on a dedicated stand). The cabinet models traditionally tend to be used mainly by professionals, while the latter are used by amateur woodworkers, although this isn’t a hard and fast rule. The floor standing cabinet models tend to have both bigger motors, and more features including a strong frame (leading to consistent cutting).
Primary Band Saw Features
Two important things to keep in mind when buying a band saw are: the throat and depth of cut. By ‘throat’, we are referring to the distance between blade and vertical frame section; this determines the cut’s width that may be finished on the band saw. Typical free standing cabinet saws’ throats generally exceed the 12-14” throats of smaller bench top models. Remember: whenever you see the phrase “18” Band Saw”, know that the manufacturer is alluding to the throat measurements.
The second important thing to remember as mentioned above is the saw’s depth of cut which is the distance from the table to the upper blade guides. The promotional campaigns of many of today’s saws are based on this feature alone, which basically indicates the stock’s thickness level that can be cut through. That said, several cheaper saws can have a riser appended to the unit increasing the depth from a regular 6” to 12”.
Band Saw Motor Sizes
The size of the motor on the band saw is also an important consideration; many major amateur-based models feature a ¾-1 horsepower motor, while professional models have bigger motors and variable speeds. But for woodworkers, ‘variable speed’ doesn’t really count for a valuable feature. You usually only use this feature during the cutting of metals and assorted hard plastics.
Other Band Saw Features To Keep In Mind
Band saws should come packaged with cast irons; either an aluminum or steel alloy table which can tilt up to a 45 degree angle for angled cuts. This table is usually about 16”x16” and comes with a miter track. Keep an eye out for band wheels with tires and cleaning brushes, to ensure the cleanliness of the wheels. Also keep any eye out for units with built in dust collection ports, for easily linking up to your existing shop vacuum.
Two great features you might want to add to your saw, provided they aren’t already included, are a miter gauge and rip fence. Both of these prove extremely helpful during resawing, ripping and cross cutting.
How to Set Up a Band Saw
During the set up of your band saw, ensure that you have read the instruction manual closely and diligently. Mainly because there are often fine tuning adjustments required to ensure the saw cuts as it’s supposed to. If you don’t closely follow the manual, this might end up degrading performance. So reading the manual is worth the effort; you’ll have a cleanly performing power tool.
Band saws are great and fun tools to add to your workshop…provided they’re used correctly.